Bipartisan panel talks leadership

Xavier Democrats and Republicans host Women in Politics panel with local leaders

Newswire photo by Ryan Kambich | (Left to right) Amy Searcy, Brigid Kelly, Leslie Stevenson, Sam Peters, Lily Hutkowski, Mary Anne Christie, Maggie Wuellner and Tamaya Dennard appeared on Thursday’s Women in Politics panel. The bipartisan collaboration featured elected officials, political operatives and activists who discussed the experience of being a female leader in a male-dominated field.

How do you succeed in a field that both sets the bar exceptionally high and undermines your drive to get ahead?

Xavier College Democrats (XU Dems) and College Republicans came together in a bipartisan effort to discuss just that on Thursday. Their efforts culminated in the Women in Politics panel, which touched on the struggles and triumphs of women’s leadership in state and local government.

The panel brought together an impressive slate of leaders: Ohio State Representative Brigid Kelly, Hamilton County GOP Director Maggie Wuellner, Court of Common Pleas Judge Amy Searcy, Norwood City Councilmember Leslie Stevenson — all Xavier graduates — alongside Ohio Republican Party Vice Chair Mary Anne Christie and Cincinnati City Councilmember Tamaya Dennard.

These elected officials, political operatives and activists reflected on their lives in politics and the progress and problems of being a female leader in a male-dominated field.

Some were new to the political arena but impressive nonetheless. Stevenson was first elected in the fall of 2017. She is the first Black woman ever to serve on the Norwood City Council. On stage, she reflected on a particularly meaningful recent visit to a Norwood elementary school. There, she spoke to a group of young Black girls about the importance of community engagement and Black leadership. She said that was a moment in which she truly felt like a role model for young Black girls in her community for the first time.

Others had long and storied careers in politics. Christie was the first woman elected to the Madeira City Council back in the 1970s and was largely shunned by her male counterparts. Despite being assigned to unpopular committees and projects, Christie always found a way to govern effectively. “I’ve made a lot of things out of nothing,” she quipped.

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The panel had no shortage of boundary-breaking leaders on stage, such as Dennard, who is the first openly gay woman to hold office in Cincinnati. “You don’t want to mess up and make it bad for another woman after you,” Dennard said of the pressures that come with her position.


“I’m a damn good political strategist, and I don’t think I got credit for that,” she said of her unexpected sixth place in last fall’s elections, a surprisingly strong finish for a first-time candidate.

Searcy spoke about the importance of breaking down barriers in addition to the struggles of paving the way for those in the future, “Many times a groundbreaker will be welcomed by those in power, but then the door gets slammed behind them,” she said.

“People want diversity, but they don’t want inclusion,” Dennard added.

XU Republicans Vice President Lily Hutkowski said of the event, “The bipartisan collaboration showed a lot of people who are interested in helping their communities. I thought it was great to hear from such inspiring women.”

XU Dems Treasurer Sam Peters concurred, saying, “The dialogue fostered between the women we heard was empowering and also said a lot about Xavier grads, as most of the women on the stage had graduated from our university.”

On what it means to be a woman in politics, Peters offered, “It means you just have to consistently be pretty badass and willing to see a problem and work to fix it. It’s a sisterhood.”

Hutkowski added, “(it means) to use your God-given talents to make the world a better place.”

By: Ryan Kambich ~Copy Editor~